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Maritime safety coalition gets grant to improve response to Columbia River fires, oil spills
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Maritime safety coalition gets grant to improve response to Columbia River fires, oil spills

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Port of Longview across the river

The Port of Longview and the Lewis and Clark Bridge are seen across the Columbia River from the Rainier waterfront on April 9.

A local maritime safety coalition received a nearly $1 million grant from the Port Security Grant Program to update radio systems and response to ship fires and oil spills.

The Maritime Fire and Safety Association will get about $900,000, a bipartisan group of Oregon and Washington U.S. House of Representative members announced.

Representatives Suzanne Bonamici (D-Ore.) and Jaime Herrera Beutler (R-Wash.) were part of the group that advocated for the funding, a joint press release said, and regularly support the association’s request for grants.

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“The Lower Columbia Willamette is a vital shipping channel that allows more than 50 million tons of cargo to travel through our region every year,” the bipartisan group wrote in support of MFSA’s application. “MFSA is a nonprofit member organization with a long track record and commitment to maintaining response preparedness to shipboard fires and oil spills on the Lower Columbia Willamette system.”

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Both ports and individual companies are part of the Maritime Fire and Safety Association, including the ports of Longview, Kalama and Vancouver, Weyerhaeuser, Nippon Dynawave Packaging Company, EGT, Emerald Kalama Chemical and Westrock.

The association also includes a Fire Protection Agencies Advisory Council with representatives from 13 fire departments.

Formed in the aftermath of the 1982 Protector Alpha Ship Fire, the fire protection council created a comprehensive system for effective response to shipboard fires. Member fire agencies contribute staff time and equipment costs and participated in meetings and training exercises.

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Those agencies include Cowlitz 2 Fire & Rescue, Columbia River Fire & Rescue, Longview Fire, Cowlitz County Fire District 1 of Woodland and Cowlitz County Fire District 5 of Kalama.

Executive Director of the Maritime Fire and Safety Association Liz Wainwright said in a press release that the funding will allow the group to “strengthen our fire safety, security, and emergency response program and update our radio communication systems.”

“We will now be able to better address the risks associated with commerce on the river system,” Wainwright said.

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